All Souls’ Day and the Haunting of 4714

4 Min read

True story

Paranormal activity, Scott Barracks

1 Book rec

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All Souls’ Day (NOV 2) is the day to remember the dead, observed by Roman Catholics. It follows All Saints’ Day (NOV 1) and All Hallows’ Eve (OCT 31 or Halloween) which commemorate the saints, the martyrs, and the faithfully departed. All Souls’ Day is for the faithfully departed and I plan to visit my father’s grave. He was Catholic.

Fall is my favorite season and I’ve enjoyed Halloween for years. It’s not the same though without my children at home. My neighbors texted about the lack of trick-or-treaters. I hadn’t decorated or set up my white strobe that flashes in the windows. I had two large pumpkins outside and put the door lights on. One family stopped by with Darth Vader and Coraline in tow.

I’m not one for horror or ghost stories. But, with the leaves dropping and the world going dormant, it seems the time for a good scare. If you’re not familiar with this true story, it is more than worth the 13 minute video to listen to the 1976 USMA graduate–who lived and lives by the honor code–talk about the incidents which happened to him in the 47th division.

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VIDEO LINK TO JIM O’CONNOR ’76, the Haunting of Room 4714

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I visited the haunted barracks at West Point last week, room 4714 in the old divisions. My daughter lives in the adjacent division and didn’t know the story. When I met her Tacitcal Officer (TAC) and cadet company commander, I told them that the room has not been occupied since the 1970s when Jim O’Connor USMA Class of 1976 experienced the apparition and paranormal activity. The upperclass at the time were going to charge him with an honor violation because ghosts aren’t real.

The Honor Chairman slept in the room and didn’t last the night. Afterwards, cadets–scientists and engineers that they are–took a thermocouple into the room and it shorted out at minus 18 degrees centigrade. If it was on the radiator it was 44 degrees centigrade but anywhere else in the room it was 27 degrees centigrade. The superintendent at the time brought in the notable exorcist, Jeane Dixon, who predicted the Kennedy assasination.

Quotes from Jim O’Connor’s video:

He [the ghost] wore an 1823 calvary uniform. … I called him not the nicest of names. Roommate saw it too. . .so we knew what we were seeing was real. Saw him every night for almost a month.

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As a plebe we had to tell them [upperclassman] what they wanted to know. ….. One night they separated my roommate and I. And I was in the room with the chairman of the honor committee… I was sleeping in my roommate’s bed and he was going to sleep in my bed.

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I said a prayer, Dear God, please let the ‘ghost’ sit on this SOB’s chest and scare the piss out of ’em. [O Connor had been catching a lot of heat from the upperclassmen, who thought he was making everything up.]

Once the Honor Chair experienced the apparation, he protected O’Connor. The Deputy Chairman of the honor committee said “that the Superintendent and another general officer escorted Jeane Dixon into the room. Her mission was to exorcise the ghost. She went into the room, got levitated, basically thrown out. Landed on her keester. And, ran away screaming. Everybody else had pretty big eyes.”

O’Connor said, “The drawing in the New York Times piece was good but the story wasn’t correct.” They moved out of that room. He never went back until his 30 year reunion and the room had not been occupied since.

“My roommate and I absolutely didn’t want to do anything to hurt West Point. We love West Point. …. nice that they didn’t release our names to the press. Being a plebe was hard enough. Being a plebe and not being able to sleep at night was even harder. Upperclassmen were oustanding people. Didn’t hold it against us.”

Based on a sketch by Jim O’Connor, USMA 1976

The cadets and TAC (tactical officer) that I met when I visited the barracks during Parent Weekend were not familiar with the story. The room had decorations with ghosts and was used as an office for Company H, 4th Regiment. A few cadets were lounging in the Quarterly Room across the way and none of them knew of the haunting.

The haunting in 4714 had a lasting effect on Jim O’Connor and his roommate, and likely so for the Honor Chair, Jeane Dixon, the Supe, and countless cadets. The story became the basis for the 1987 novel Shades of Gray by Lieutnenant Colonel Timothy O’Neill, a tenured professor at West Point. As for the ghost or apparition, maybe his departure from this earthly existence was far from peaceful.

And, on this All Souls’ Day, may he find his eternal resting place. May it be one of peace.

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Room 4714 last weekend, used as an office. Not occupied as barracks room since 1970s. (Photo credit, author)

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FOOTNOTES

*The Supernatural Side of US Military Academy at West Point by Michelle Schneider, October 31, 2019.

*Shades of Gray by LTC Timothy O’Neill (Viking Penguin, 1987) who was a tenured professor on the West Point faculty. A fictional novel about the haunting, which deals with a cadet who goes AWOL (absent without leave) and the fall-out in the Corps.

*NYTimes November 22, 1972 Digitized Version

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A colonel, asked by an en listed man what he thought, said, “It’s a damned embar rassment to West Point.” The Protestant chaplain, mean while, has said that he does not believe in ghosts, but that he does not doubt the cadets, either.

“I have not exorcised the ghost,” said James Ford, the civilian chaplain.

“One old graduate told me yesterday, ‘They’ve torn down all the old barracks, and where do you expect the ghosts to go?’

“Do you know. I believe the cadets with all my heart. I believe they think they saw something. It just doesn’t fit into my theology.”

The cadets say that the apparition was seen first by the two plebes who odeu pied Room 4714.

The second time it ap peared, they say, it walked out of the bureau and stood about in the middle of the floor. That time, Cadet Bak ken said, he heard the plebes shout.

He burst into the room, he said, and saw the plebes sitting on a bureau, clutch ing each other and saying the rosary.

The room, he said, was cold.

Lieut Comdr. Michael Macdonald is the tactical of ficer in the barracks. He is at West Point on an ex change program with the Navy, and he knows the ca dets who say they have seen the apparition.

“I’m skeptical about it myself,” he said. “I think the guys who saw it were hon est., Other guys believe in it. One night about 10 cadets came in, piled mattresses all over the place and waited for it all night. Another night I walked in and about five guys were in the room with cameras. They wanted a picture.”

Commander Macdonald says that the apparition is not a Navy trick having something to do with the Army‐Navy football game in Philadelphia a week from Saturday. Cadet Bakken agrees with him.

And so last night, at least some of the cadets were waiting, apparently hoping that The Thing would materi alize.

They were watching for something wearing a hat that was last worn in the eighteen thirties. A cadet who says he saw The Thing drew the ap parition that way, with a plume rising out of its shako.

Still, the cadets may have to wait, perhaps almost a year. It may be significant that it first appeared on Oct. 31, which, as everyone knows, is All Hallows Eve.

*NYTimes Archives

Nov 2, 2022

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About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

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